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Karnataka elections promise high drama

Bangalore Key ministers who served the BJP government pitted against each other, brothers crossing swords, erosion of Bellary mining baron's influence, a ruling party minus heavyweight B S Yeddyurappa and a fragmented political landscape - the May five Assembly elections in Karnataka have all the ingredients of a potboiler.

Desertion of more than 30 MLAs and internal bickering and allegations of scams during its tenure make the ruling BJP look battered.

But the principal opposition Congress, appearing to put up a united front to dislodge the BJP government, is also in not a happy position either as the flood of ticket aspirants has led to a wave of dissidence in its wake.

The main players BJP (140), Congress (177) and JDS of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda (122) announced candidates for majority of seats in the 224-member House on Friday.

Congress tickets are much sought after and aspirants lobbied hard. Those who lost out are crying foul. Some poll surveys in recent weeks claimed the Congress is all set to form the next Government.

The names cleared are largely non-controversial. The last day for filing nominations, April 17, is eagerly awaited, mainly because it would throw light on whether the parties have given tickets to the tainted, kin of party leaders and defectors.

Senior Congress leaders M Mallikarjuna Kharge and N Dharam Singh are pushing for poll tickets for their sons, while K H Muniyappa is pushing for the candidature of his daughter.

While the 2008 polls were largely a triangular affair with BJP, Congress and JDS slugging it out, the presence of Yeddyurappa's Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) and, to less extent, the BSR Congress of former BJP Minister B Sriramulu is making the poll scene this time hazy.

Most of the BJP MLAs who jumped the ruling party ship have joined forces with Karnataka Janata Party but the decision of key ministers Umesh Katti, Murugesh Nirani, Basavaraja Bommai and V Somanna who were in the Yeddyurappa camp, to stay put in the BJP is seen as a setback to Yeddyurappa.

Besides seeking to position himself as a 'king-maker' in the post-poll scenario, Yeddyurappa has vowed to decimate the BJP, which at this stage looks to be on the backfoot, saddled as it is with anti-incumbency factor.

In more than 30 segments, those who won on BJP ticket last time are contesting from largely from either the KJP or JDS or BSR Congress. In 2008, mining baron G Janardhana Reddy and company wielded considerable influence in Bellary and neighbouring districts boosting BJP prospects.

Reddy is now in jail in a CBI case and majority of his supporters have now sided with the BSR Congress, with some exceptions, including his brother G Karunakara Reddy, who is seeking re-election from Harapanahalli. BJP received a drubbing in Bellary district in the recent elections to urban local bodies.

In Rajajinagar constituency in Bangalore, Law, Parliamentary Affairs Minister S Suresh Kumar is facing Shobha Karandlaje of the KJP, who had served the BJP government first as Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister and later as Energy Minister.

In Soraba, sons of former Chief Minister late S Bangarappa - Kumar Bangarappa (Congress) and Madhu Bangarappa (JDS) are taking on each other.

In Varuna segment, Yeddyurappa has fielded his private assistant Siddalingaswamy to take on Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah.

KJP has fielded Michael Fernandes, brother of former Defence Minister George Fernandes, from Sarvajnanagar segment in the city.

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